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Academic Culture, Understaffing Blamed for Higher Ed IT Insecurity

Academic culture and understaffing in IT departments continues to result in data security breaches throughout the higher education system,according to

The latest breach occured on Wednesday at Oklahoma State University when a German hacker broke into a server used by the school's parking and transit department. The breach, according to school officials, wasn't malicious; the hacker, they think, was looking for server space to store files such as movies, songs, and pornographic content. Nevertheless, the school isn't taking chances. It has begun notifying the 70,000 individuals who purchased parking passes since 2002 that their names, Social Security numbers, and other personal data may have been compromised in the breach.

Charlie Moran, principal at Moran Technology Consulting, told that the academy's desire for openness is the primary culprit for data security breaches at institutions of higher education.

Promoting a free exchange of information results in "the highly decentralized nature of educational IT environments," said Ted Julian, vice president of marketing at Application Security Inc. While this does create a "highly collaborative environment," he said, it also makes it hard for IT departments to secure university networks.

Moran also said many unversity IT departments are simply understaffed, especially at state schools, and cannot keep up with information security needs.

According to the Web site Educational Security Incidents, there have already been 86 data security incidents on university IT networks this year. Last year, there was a total of 139 information security incidents, a 67.5 percent increase over 2006.